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Israel and its illegal settlers demonstrate the reality and brutality of the occupation

Israeli forces take a Palestinian woman into custody during a demonstration at Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood after Israeli government's plan to force some Palestinian families out of their homes in East Jerusalem on May 05, 2021 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
Israeli forces take a Palestinian woman into custody during a demonstration at Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood after Israeli government's plan to force some Palestinian families out of their homes in East Jerusalem on May 05, 2021 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Violence has become a permanent feature of Ramadan for the people of occupied Palestine. The first day of the fasting month this year began with the Israeli army breaking locks and cutting the wires to the loudspeakers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to silence the evening calls to prayer. In yet another provocative move, Israel allowed only 10,000 Palestinians to enter Jerusalem from the West Bank.

On the first Friday in the month, only 70,000 Muslims were able to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque; on one Friday in 2019, there were 200,000 worshippers in the Noble Sanctuary. That was not unusual.

Extremist Israel settlers continue incitement against Palestinians in Jerusalem - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Extremist Israel settlers continue incitement against Palestinians in Jerusalem – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Adding fuel to the fire, Israeli soldiers imposed further restrictions by erecting metal barriers to seal off the Damascus Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem. It is one of the main routes through the occupied city to the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa. A peaceful protest was arranged; unsurprisingly, the Israeli army responded — without warning, said eyewitnesses — by attacking Palestinians with tear gas and stun grenades.

An elderly disabled person was among those who were attacked, and the occupying forces detained at least three people. One police officer was filmed slapping a Palestinian man in his face before arresting him.

During Ramadan, Damascus Gate serves as a popular location for Palestinians to congregate in the evenings after the daytime fast. Israel's pretext for the barriers was to prevent overcrowding. However, given their long experience of occupation, Palestinians understood that the barriers were another "temporary" measure that would quickly become permanent, making it even harder for them to access the Old City and their holy sites.

READ: 100 Palestinians injured after Israel fired at worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Meanwhile, nightly attacks by hundreds of extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians escalated. The settlers marched to the Old City with protection from Israeli soldiers, chanting "Death to Arabs!" and attacking passers-by with stones and tear gas. Led by Lehava, a group of far-right extremists, the march was organised as a call to "restore Jewish dignity" in Jerusalem. In a video posted on Twitter, Israeli youth were filmed throwing pipes and other hard objects into the homes of Palestinian residents of the Old City. More than 100 Palestinians were wounded and fifty were detained.

The Israeli government and the illegal settlers it encourages can only do this because they know that the international community will neither hold them accountable nor do anything to protect the Palestinians. Western politicians continue to give Israel free rein to do whatever it wants, while a compliant mainstream media reports the situation as "clashes" in a conflict between equals rather than the asymmetric war against unarmed civilians that it really is.

Human Right Watch's detailed report concludes that Western states, by turning a blind eye to Israel's longstanding abuses of Palestinians and focusing instead on a non-existent peace process, have allowed "apartheid to metastasise and consolidate".

With Ramadan coming to an end this week, billions of Muslims around the world are preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied Jerusalem, meanwhile, are facing forcible eviction from their homes in which their families have lived for generations.

The Israeli district court in East Jerusalem approved a decision to vacate six Palestinian families from their homes in May to allow Israeli settlers to move in. It is a war crime for an occupation state to move its citizens into territory occupied through war. Nevertheless, the same court ruled that another seven families in Sheikh Jarrah have to leave their homes by August. This is the ongoing ethnic cleansing that Palestinians face daily, and have done since 1948.

Sheikh Jarrah, a residential area less than a kilometre away from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, has long been coveted by Israeli settlers. Ever since Israel seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli settler organisations have claimed ownership of the land in Sheikh Jarrah and have filed multiple lawsuits to evict Palestinians from the neighbourhood.

OPINION: Israel's policy in Jerusalem escalates situation in Gaza and West Bank

Following the latest court order, Palestinians have been protesting in an effort to protect the indigenous population in Sheikh Jarrah. Those arrested include Tala Obeid, Omar Al-Khatib and Mahmoud Nabil Al-Kurd, whose families face displacement.

One teenager has been shot in the leg and a man was wounded after settlers stabbed him and pepper-sprayed him while he was returning from work. Moreover, Israeli settlers assaulted Palestinians breaking their fast in the neighbourhood in solidarity with the 40 Palestinians, including ten children, who face the imminent threat of being made homeless to make way for illegal settlers. The thuggish settlers threw stones, glass bottles and other objects at the Palestinians. When the latter responded to the assault, a fight broke out between the two groups.

Such violence by settlers and Israeli occupation forces is now predictable during the month of Ramadan. It happens in the Gaza Strip as well. In 2014, when Ramadan fell later in the year, Israel launched yet another massive military offensive, killing over 2,200 Palestinians — 500 of them children — and wounding tens of thousands more. The Palestinians are still trying to recover.

The reality is that Israel continues to treat international law with contempt, and is allowed to act with impunity by the international community. War crimes and crimes against humanity are committed in front of the world media; no "investigation" is required to determine who is responsible. Such crimes include preventing the Palestinians from accessing the holy sites during Ramadan and throughout the year. This is the reality of Israeli apartheid and its brutal military occupation.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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